Early yesterday evening, the doorbell rang. It was Colin, expert decorator and friend, come to buy some Piccalilli which he and his wife Christine are rather partial to. He came in for a chat.
He was telling us about how, the day after the mighty gales last month, Christine had gone over to the field where they keep their little Shetland pony who, in turn, keeps their Fell Pony Jasper company along with about eighteen hens and a few ducks. It was late afternoon. Christine was met by a horrible sight. Eleven of their hens had been killed and several of them nowhere to be seen. Mister Duck lay dead in the long grass. The fine chocolate brown cockerel had been slaughtered too. It could only have been a fox. The cockerel’s claws were bloodied, the brave fellow must have tried to defend his troupe of ladies but to no avail. The few hens who had escaped the attack were cowering in their coops, too traumatised to come out for several days afterwards.
Christine walked down to the bottom of the field and found further evidence; a wing and piles of feathers. The grass in the fields was still long, not yet cut, so the culprit had plenty of cover and time to make his or her move quietly and unseen.
It’s every henkeeper’s nightmare. We try to protect our birds by shutting them up at sunset but often foxes and other predators, mink and even stoats or weasels, will come in broad daylight and wreak havoc.
Other people in the valley also lost birds that day. It’s odd that it was the day after the violent storm, perhaps it somehow un-nerved the local foxes and thus they acted the way they did.
Colin and Christine have a new Mister Duck now but they worry. Our own cockerel, Hector, won’t go up the ramp after his girls go up to bed, I have to lift him and tuck him up every evening. Silly thing. But he is a beauty so I don’t mind.
I try to tell him that no matter how big and handsome he is, he is no match for a fox. He doesn’t understand Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.